stirring reminders ... purposeful repetitions

Sometimes, repetition annoys me. But ... there are other times when the it's the only thing that gets me through. 

After a major loss, I set the audio player to "repeat one" on the song "My Father's Love" that so gently yet confidently affirms, "No matter what happens in His grand design, I'll be fine in my Father's love." When that Strong Tower CD got stuck in the car's CD player before I could download the song onto another device, that one phrase repeated itself again and again in my head until I could buy a replacement copy. 

Similarly, during one extended family crisis, the only thing that put me to sleep at night was repeating one phrase from a particular psalm over and over again to myself until I believed it enough to rest in the One who breathed it out. 


Admittedly, some people repeat themselves because they think you weren't listening--even if you heard them quite clearly. Others repeat themselves because--truth be told--they weren't listening to themselves say it the first time or because they just like to hear themselves talk. 

But ... there are those who speak purposefully and intentionally ... and--on purpose--repeat their message. 

Check out what Peter says in the first chapter of his second epistle: 

"I intend always to remind you of these qualities [faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love that effectively produce spiritual fruit], though you know them and are established in the truth that you have, I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things" (2 Peter 1:12-15).

Get this: 

You already know this stuff. 
In fact, you're firmly established in the truth. 

However, I intend ... 
and I think it's right ... 
and I will make every effort ...

to remind you ...
to stir you up by way of reminder ... 

so that ...
you'll be able to recall these things. 

Peter knew his time was short. Jesus Himself had made that clear--whether before His own ascension or by special revelation, he doesn't say--but he knew it. He knew that it would be important for these believers (for all believers) to remember these Essential Virtues: Marks of a Christ-Centered Life ... even after (especially after) he was no longer able to be with them. 

Two angles: 
  • As a student, am I willing to listen to the same truths again and again? Do I get frustrated hearing preaching from a text I've studied or heard before? Or, am I thankful for the reminder? Do I realize that I need the repetition? Each of us is learning and growing, and each time we're retaught something a new connection can form because of things we've learned or experienced since the last time we heard it. The factual content may not be greater, but the personal understanding should be deeper and deeper. Perhaps that's why Paul concluded this letter with "Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...." We have to keep growing. And that takes repeated instruction. 
  • But let me now say, as a teacher, to us teachers: Peter didn't keep saying it the same way. Check out chapter 3:1. "This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder...." If you read 1 Peter and 2 Peter, though both of them share purpose and points, they are different letters. They are not saying the exact same words, the same way, "one more time, a little louder." As teachers, we must keep digging and growing, learning and connecting truth to the current context and audience that God has given us. Keep it fresh. Keep it relevant. Same themes, same truths--sure. Same exact outline and illustrations? Please, please--NO! 

I'll close with an illustration. One day in our inner city ministry, a teen girl asked me if I'd read the whole Bible through. I answered simply, yes, I had. She seemed a bit stunned. Her expression assumed that having read the whole Book, I both remembered and knew every detail from the Book. I quickly added, but that doesn't mean I don't need to keep reading it. I need it. 

And I do. I need the Word to keep filling my mind and spirit. I don't remember it all. I don't connect things I feel like I should have been able to ... unless I stay in the Word. 

But the more I keep reading and re-reading, the more things piece together. Little by little, the more I own, the more I am set free from sin and free to better follow Jesus. 

Jesus said it this way, "If you abide in My Word, you are truly My disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."

There are several things that I admire my Gramma for. 
  • One is her perfected art of making pies. Oh, they're amazing! My favorite is when she fills her perfect crust with strawberries and rhubarb. My brother begs her blueberry every chance he gets. 
  • But even more: I remember as a young girl opening up her Bible on the TV stand beside the recliner. There were a bunch of little tally marks in the front fly-leaf of that well-used Book. "What are these for?," I asked. And she, very modestly replied that each little tiny mark represented her having completed her reading through the Bible from cover to cover one time. Wow!
Gramma's Bible reading tallies tell a truth: all our lives, year after year, we need the Word again and again. We need the reminders. Need. 

"Lest we forget..." 

michelle

I'd love to hear from you. What do you do to keep yourself reminded of truths in Scripture? What are some of those essential qualities or truths that you find yourself returning to over and over again? 

book review: blue & comfort, joyce moyer hostetter

Last week, my editor for Girl in the Mirror and No Matter What posted a link to the adult writer's workshops at a local writer's conference. The session entitled "Let Your History Do the Plotting" by Joyce Moyer Hostetter caught my attention. Before long, all the pieces for me to attend Write 2 Ignite providentially morphed into a PayPal confirmation. 



More on the conference later. First, I want to share with you two books I picked up at the conference by the leader of that workshop, Joyce Moyer Hostetter: Blue and it's sequel Comfort, both middle grade historical novels. I'll say this: you know you're in good company when the suggested fiction in the back of the book includes Patricia Reilly Giff's Lily's Crossing and Lois Lowry's Autumn Street. I actually haven't read Autumn Street ... yet ... but I love these two historical fiction authors!



It started as an assignment to find a local story that took place more than 50 years ago. "Everyone loves a local story!" So, Joyce contacted her hometown of Hickory, North Carolina's history museum where she was pointed in the direction of Hickory's 1944-45 polio epidemic. Well, that was right smack dab in the middle of World War 2 and right at the outset of Franklin D. Roosevelt's fourth term in office. There's a powerful lot of story in that there year. 

Well, Joyce did a stellar job with her research and masterfully wove it into a story so you hardly even notice how much you're learning. I loved the references to things my grandparents have shared with me from their experiences--things like Gramma's ringer washing machine and Grampa's tiny leg braces from when he had polio as a child. 

Blue is the story of Ann Fay Honeycutt whose papa goes off to fight in the war and gives her a pair of overalls as a going away present. She'd have to be the "man of the house" now. And Ann rises to the challenge like so many women and girls had to in that day and time. When her little brother contracts polio, their mother goes to help at the emergency polio hospital, and Ann Fay steps into the role of father and mother for her little sisters, until she herself contracts polio and begins a journey to overcome. Blue was a very satisfying read and one I have readily handed off to my oldest son. 



The sequel, Comfort, was a little more challenging. It's longer, for one, but more, its themes are deeper. Going beyond war and disease, Comfort explores peer pressure, prejudice, and disability; post-traumatic stress disorder, anger, and domestic violence; and since Ann Fay is growing up, it naturally deals with more relationship issues. Still a worthwhile read, I would recommend a child have shown some emotionally maturity before tackling this book. 

From a historic standpoint, this is the year FDR dies. And, sadly, racial segregation is still strong in the South. From a literary standpoint, the continued deepening in character development is very good. In my opinion, there was a bit too much repetition of content for a thoughtful reader. Published three years after Blue, it felt a bit like the author assumed it had been three years since we'd thought about the Honeycutts or Hickory. At least, that was my feel for it. 

The overarching theme of both books together becomes fellow polio's encouragement that "it mostly hurts at first." This little phrase seems to carry Ann Fay through physical therapy and multiple other painful situations. I love how Ann Fay is drawn to the negro spirituals and is ahead of her time in embracing a love for people of varying backgrounds and degrees of melanin in their skin. There's religious language throughout, but I would have liked to have seen the power of personal faith be a little stronger. And though I haven't mentioned these guys at all yet, if you want to know, my two favorite minor characters throughout the two-book set are neighbor Junior Bledsoe and war-vet Otis.

Both books have found a secure home on my middle grade shelves. I appreciate that Joyce has put together discussion questions for both Blue and Comfort .  I hope you'll pick them up soon and share them with a middle grader in your life. 

Happy reading, 

michelle

By the way, if you happen to look up these titles on Google books, there are four one-star ratings. But it's important to note that each of these are transferred ratings from Goodreads and all four reviewers comment on how they learned something or really liked the books. So, don't let those one-stars deter you. ;)

silence...makes the next words more important

In public speaking, it's a dramatic pause. In the blogosphere, it's often considered unacceptable. And yet, it's life pausing the stream of words. And it's okay... and often intentional. After all, even God was silent for four hundred years between the testaments. And then came the wonderful Word--the birth announcement of the Word made flesh!

Part of me wants to apologize for the pause. But I know you totally understand... I also know you won't be disappointed... for my pause, too, ends with an announcement of an upcoming birth. And it's a ... (dramatic pause) ... GIRL!!! 

It was such fun taking huge cupcakes with PINK icing to the boys at school after the ultrasound to reveal the gender of their new sibling. 

My oldest (of three boys) is jumping-up-and-down thrilled! The next owes me dinner--he lost his bet--though I won't hold him to it. And the youngest just likes saying "baby" and kissing my belly: he really has no clue what this is going to mean for him. (Of course, neither do I. As one friend quipped, "Welcome to a whole new world.")

After three boys, this facebook post has claimed the greatest number of hits in the history of my account ... and still climbing. We "like" this news a lot too. 

So, you'll forgive me for my blogging pause?

Thanks, dear one. 

Grace multiplied to you, too,

michelle